By Meredith Wood Smith of Portland, Oregon. Meredith is the newly elected chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon. The following was her speech to the state delegates - prior to the vote.
What is the Democratic Party for? Some say, "elect candidates." Some say, "push office holders to adopt our policies." I say, "neither."
Our party does not exist just to elect people, or to take stands on issues. The purpose of our Party is to make the world we live in a better place. In our cities... counties... state ...and country. A better place for all of us, regardless of our race, religion or residence; our skin or sex or sexual orientation; our age, or ability. A better place for us, for our children, and for our great great grandchildren.
That's why we must find and elect outstanding candidates. That's why we must form and push for sound policies. That's why we need a relevant, open and functioning Democratic Party: to make things better! So, the question must never be "which is more important, electing people, or pushing sound policies?" The question must rather always be "Which is the most important, right now, in making things better?" – and then go for it!
That's why for the last four years I've traveled Oregon, working with counties and with candidates to build our Party, and that's why I hope you'll let me spend two more years doing that, as your Chair.
We've had some wonderful successes. When you chose me as Vice Chair four years ago 9 of our counties weren't even here. 6 of those 9 are here today.
Four years ago we controlled neither houses of our State Legislature. Today we control both -- and look at the terrific leadership our Democratic majority has already shown!
Last year folks were saying we couldn't reelect Ted -– and Ted won going away.
We've had some great successes locally, too: Phil Houk, Pendleton Mayor; Mike Wendel, Prineville Mayor; Steve Grasty, County Judge in Burns – who's here today – to name just a few. We've done all this because we don't need a tragedy like Katrina to remind us of our responsibility to make a difference – to deliver the promise of America to everyone.
But there's so much more to do. Most of rural Oregon still votes "red." Our majority in the Oregon House is razor thin. Gordon Smith and Greg Walden still sit in Congress. And the disaster occupying the White House! I hear Dr. King's words: "We have entered a war not knowing the truth, or the real agenda, and our men and women are dying or forever maimed...and we are leaving a legacy of hate..."
- We still must battle for the right to organize, and to seek a living wage.
- We still have 100,000 plus Oregon children without health care.
- And the Jackson County libraries might close for lack of funds.
I've traveled Oregon, visiting – often more than once – 29 of our 36 counties (I've been miscounting!) I've rejoiced in the smell of pine, juniper and sage; the soft ocean breeze on a warm September day; the lift of living in the shadows of our magnificent mountains and the unparalleled beauty of our Columbia Gorge. I've stayed in your homes, talking with you into the night, or sharing coffee at your breakfast table. I've listened to the cry of the osprey along the Rogue River, the sound of the surf hitting Haystack Rock, the wondrous silence of the high desert. I love this land more than I can say, and promise, if you'll let me, to devote all my energy to helping our Party make it what it can and should be.
I will be a full-time chair, for our Party and our State;
I will strive to insure transparency in our Party, seeking your ideas, and keeping you informed;
I will work with you to implement a thirty-six county strategy;
I will continue to build strong relationships with our elected officials;, and,
I will work with you to insure diversity in our party – geographic, ethnic, constituent, cultural – so our party is the big tent it needs to be.
You've heard that politics is "the art of the possible." I like a different definition: politics is "the art of getting things done." Give me the chance, and teaming with our wonderful staff, with Jill and Bill and Jenny and Wayne, with whoever we choose today as secretary, and with all of you, I will always focus on getting things done.
And as we move forward, let us never forget our ultimate purpose: making our Country, our State, yes, our neighborhoods, a better place.
Thank you I ask for your vote for Chair.